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UNSC’s 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee on Jaish-e-Mohammad Chief Masood Azhar

  • Category
    World Affairs
  • Published
    19th Mar, 2019

With Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad having claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terrorist attack, the focus is back on Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar.

India considers China-Pakistan move of not doing enough against the terror outfit as brazen claim.  India has failed multiple times to list him as a “global terrorist” at the United Nations Security Council.

Issue

Context:

With Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad having claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terrorist attack, the focus is back on Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar.

India considers China-Pakistan move of not doing enough against the terror outfit as brazen claim.  India has failed multiple times to list him as a “global terrorist” at the United Nations Security Council.

About:

The proposal to designate Pakistan-based Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN Security Council under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council was moved by France, UK and the US.

China has blocked the move by India and other member nations three times in the past to designate Azhar as global terrorist. China has been insisting that the solution should be acceptable to all.

Background:

The JeM, headed by the 50-year-old Azhar, carried out many terror strikes in India and was also involved in the attack on Parliament, the Pathankot air force base, army camps in Jammu and Uri.

Azhar was released by the A B Vajpayee government in December 1999, along with Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Omar Sheikh, in exchange for the release of the passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC-814.

Resolutions 1267 and 1373:

  • The UNSC resolution 1267 was adopted unanimously on October 15, 1999. It is a consolidated list of people and entities it has determined as being associated with Al Qaeda or the Taliban, and laws which must be passed within each member nation to implement the sanctions.
  • Masood Azhar has been linked to Osama bin Laden and, hence, can be sanctioned under 1267 sanctions committee.
  • Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) requires Member States to “ensure that any person who participates in the financing, planning, preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts or in supporting terrorist acts is brought to justice”.
  • In order to comply with this requirement, it is essential that States establish fully functioning and professional law enforcement capacities. Because of the transnational nature of terrorism, these capacities must also be reflected at the regional and international levels.

Why the issue is important:

  • After India blamed Jaish for the attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot on January 2, 2016, India put forward a proposal in February 2016 to designate Azhar as a terrorist under the aegis of the UNSC 1267 committee.
  • China intervened at Pakistan’s behest and placed a technical hold on India’s move in March 2016, and again in October 2016. It subsequently used its veto power to block the proposal in December 2016, a day before the technical hold ended.

Analysis

India has always raised the issue of listing of Azhar as a logical conclusion since JeM has already been designated as a terror outfit.

Despite its “disappointment” over China’s decision to place a hold on the terror listing of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar at the United Nations, India has indicated that it would continue its efforts to convince Beijing, rather than adopt a collision course with it.

France decided to freeze all assets of Pakistan based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed, JeM chief Masood Azhar, in the application of the country's Monetary and Financial Code.

China’s real intentions behind its ‘technical hold’ on Masood Azhar:

  • Masood Azhar-led Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) is one of the many terror groups Beijing considers as important cogs for security and stability in its restive Xinjiang province.
  • Masood Azhar is Beijing’s go-to man to ensure security of its geostrategic investments under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China’s flagship project under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the Af-Pak region.
  • China’s romance with terrorists in the Afghanistan-Pak region has a historical legacy based on its vested economic, security and geostrategic interests.
  • China’s Uyghur Muslim-dominated Xinjiang province came under religious and cultural influence of Pakistan as it was opened up post the reform period of 1978.

A brief history of this stated legacy:

  • Pakistani mullahs started teaching the fundamentals of Islam and their distorted interpretation of jihad to inflame the Uyghurs in the wake of the Afghanistan situation.
  • Such misplaced religious awakening created centrifugal tendencies among Uyghurs who started anti-China agitations in Xinjiang in 1980, 1981, 1985 and 1987.
  • The situation changed after the collapse of the Soviet Union as the Afghan mujahedeen gained power in their country.
  • The tipping point for the Chinese was the Baren incident, where Uyghurs started mass protest in April 1990 to wage jihad against the Chinese and establish the East Turkestan state.
  • Post USSR’s disintegration, fears that foreign powers will use the Taliban and Pakistan-based terrorists against China grew in Beijing.

Beijing’s response was two sided:

  1. It resorted to a state response that was nothing short of an ethnic cleansing. Even today, over one million Uyghurs are reportedly imprisoned in re-education camps (concentration camps) across Xinjiang.
  2. China’s devised a narrow approach and self-driven diplomacy when its senior diplomat had a meeting with the Taliban leader. Mullah Omar promised that Taliban will not allow Uyghurs to launch attacks on China in Xinjiang.

After the Gulja incident of 1997, Xinxiang has neither witnessed any major terrorist attack, nor have automatic weapons been used by the Uyghurs in the restive region.

Economic and geo-strategic interests behind the "Veto":

  • Located in northwest China, Xinjiang is the starting point of China’s much-hyped BRI projects, especially the controversial CPEC.
  • The motives behind CPEC are clearly to serve China’s own geostrategic and economic interests than helping Pakistan’s ailing economy.
  • CPEC’s infrastructure projects connect Kashgar in Xinjiang to Baluchistan's Gwadar port, giving China ready access to West Asia and Africa for its energy imports.
  • CPEC greatly reduces China’s dependency on the traditional route through the narrow Strait of Malacca, which, if cut, can choke Beijing economically.

To reiterate, China recognized Azhar’s influence over radicalized elements and used him to safeguard its own strategic and economic interests in the region.

China is not happy with India’s warm relationship with the Afghan government. Azhar’s influence is therefore covertly used by both Pakistan and China to strengthen the Taliban, who are averse to Indian interests in Afghanistan as well as in Kashmir.

India’s relationship with the US after 2001 and the signing of Logistic Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) are the other factors that have provoked China to appease Masood Azhar and also to court the Taliban.

Chinese Perspective: when India criticizes the world of double standards on terrorism, it has itself long supported separatist groups in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province who launch terror attack in the country.

What is likely to happen?

Post the Pulwama carnage, there is a feeling in some sections that increased pressure from the Indian government may force China to rethink its stand on Masood Azhar. However, considering Beijing’s “narrow approach”, such a move at this juncture will only make China and the Chinese people living in Pakistan more vulnerable to terrorism. China’s U-turn on Masood Azhar, therefore, seems unlikely.

Learning Aid

Practice Question:     

The Pakistani army and the ISI revived the JeM in 2008 under its “good” versus “bad” terrorists’ strategy which was actively supported by China. China recognized Azhar’s influence over radicalized elements and used him to safeguard its own strategic and economic interests in the region. In such a scenario, critically evaluate the likely outcomes of UNSC resolutions under 1267.

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